The economic slowdown in the appliance industry has hit Newton-based Maytag. Maytag executives say fourth quarter earnings will be down as much as 50 percent compared to last year. Earlier this week, Whirlpool, one of Maytag’s competitors, announced a drastic reduction in earnings and laid off over six thousand workers. That’s 10 percent of its workforce. Whirlpool’s in worse shape than Maytag because “Circuit City” stores have discontinued carrying Whirlpool appliances. By comparison, Maytag recently inked an agreement with Wal-Mart and Home Depot to sell its products exclusively, for prices three to four percent lower than at Sears, where Whirlpool’s Kenmore and KitchenAid appliances are sold.